The High Court in Harare yesterday dismissed an urgent chamber application in which MDC-T was seeking an order compelling Government to accept the appointment of non-councillors as mayors in various cities and towns countrywide.MDC-T was ordered to pay costs of the suit.
Justice Francis Bere ruled that the opposition party failed to prove that the matter was urgent and he declined to hear it.
MDC-T wanted the court to direct the Government to allow non-councillors to stand as mayoral candidates.
Recently the Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Mr Killian Mpingo instructed all provincial administrators to only consider candidates who are elected councillors for mayoral posts. He spelt out the Government position basing his facts on Section 274 (2) as read with Sections 265 (2) and 275 of the Constitution.
The directive sparked debate, with MDC-T filing an urgent chamber application seeking to compel the minister to allow non-councillors to be elected as mayors and chairpersons of local authorities.
The parties met in the chambers of Justice Bere around 2.30pm and after the hearing the lawyers spoke to our Harare Bureau.
Mr Joseph Mandizha, who was representing the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, permanent secretary and the provincial administrators for Harare and Bulawayo, confirmed the developments.
“The judge dismissed the application for lack of urgency. He held that it would be a miscarriage of justice to hear the matter on an urgent basis when the papers filed by MDC-T did not demonstrate the urgency,” said Mr Mandizha of Mandizha and Company law firm.
MDC-T spokesperson and a principal at Mwonzora and Associates Mr Douglas Mwonzora said the case was only dimissed on a technicality and that the party would not rest until the case was determined on its merits. “The judge refused to hear the merits of the case on the basis that the matter lacked urgency.
This is a matter we will definitely not let to rest because we have a strong case. We have a good case on the merits and the party will decide on the next step but we will not give up on it,” he said.
Last week MDC-T lawyers withdrew an application they had filed at the Electoral Court after Mr Mandizha convinced the court that the application had nothing to do with elections.
Upon realising they had approached the wrong court with the mayoral challenge, MDC-T lawyers withdrew the application and filed a fresh one at the High court.
Mr Mupingo deposed an affidavit describing the application as a mischievous venture that shows lack of seriousness.
“I submit therefore that it will be noted that applicant is either totally lacking seriousness or is just being mischievous. Its reading of Section 277(2) of the constitution is plainly wrong and misplaced,” read the affidavit. The ministry urged the court to express its displeasure by dismissing the application with costs on a higher scale.
MDC-T secretary for local government Mr Blessing Chebundo deposed an affidavit on behalf of the party indicating that they had already held their caucus to select mayoral candidates for all cities, including Harare and Bulawayo and that some of the preferred candidates were not elected councillors.
When Government took a position on the qualification of mayors, MDC-T had already convened a caucus and selected former Justice and Legal Affairs Deputy Minister Obert Gutu, a lawyer, as nominee for Harare mayor.
It also hand-picked National University of Science and Technology lecturer Mr Mandla Nyathi as the new Bulawayo mayor.
MDC-T went further and nominated its Chitungwiza deputy spokesperson Mr Isaac Manyemba for mayor of the town.